On a chilly December morning in 2012, David Raih woke up at a Days Inn hotel in Lubbock, Texas and glanced at the clock beside his bed.
It was 4:21 a.m. on the day that would change his life.
The unemployed football coach put on a suit and a Red Raider-colored tie, then made the short jaunt to Texas Tech’s practice facility to speak with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Technically, no, Kingsbury was not aware that Raih was coming. OK, sure, the pair did not know each other at all. But the then-32-year-old Raih was determined to speak a job into existence, never bothering to consider what would happen if he failed.
“The quote is, ‘If you have a Plan B, Plan A never works,’” Raih said. “I literally didn’t have another plan. That was it.”
Raih arrived at the facility before everyone but a security guard, who allowed him into the lobby. Raih didn’t have to wait long for his chance at an impromptu interview.
“The next guy to walk in was Kliff,” Raih said.
The presumptuousness of the encounter could have been off-putting, but as Raih spoke, Kingsbury quickly became captivated by his passion.
“When he was talking, you could see this was a no-turning-back-type life decision that he made,” Kingsbury said. “You could see it in his eyes, the way he talked about football, the way he talked about his plan and where he was heading. By the end of our meeting, I didn’t even know if I had a position, but I said, ‘I’ll make one. I don’t know where it will be, but you have a job here, I want you to know that.’”
Raih had worked for college football teams in the past – first UCLA and then Iowa – but on low levels as an intern and a graduate assistant. This was his first big break. The accommodations were sparse – Raih said he worked in “a closet next to (Kingsbury’s) office” – but he was in the building.
Raih was put in charge of recruiting walk-ons. One of the players he nabbed was Baker Mayfield, originally forging a bond with the under-recruited quarterback by sending him a message on Facebook.
Raih made a quick impression at Texas Tech – he was promoted to outside receivers coach before the 2013 season was over -- but his stint was short. After that first year, he received a call from an unknown number.
“When coach McCarthy called, I thought it was a prank phone call,” Raih said. “No joke. He was like, ‘David, (this is) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ I was six years in. I had no plan to go to the NFL.”
Raih moved on to Green Bay for the next five years, ascending from a coaching administrator to wide receivers coach. Throughout that time, he never lost contact with Kingsbury.
When Kingsbury got the head coaching job with the Cardinals, he brought in Raih to interview for the receivers coach position. This time it was more official.
“Regardless of our past, we still had a six-hour interview,” Raih said. “Even though there’s a history there, it’s football, so we’re going to keep it football. It’s a big job.”
Raih improved to 2-for-2 on interviews with Kingsbury when he was named the Cardinals’ receivers coach on Jan. 13.
It’s doubtful Raih would be here if not for that bold move six years ago, and now he’s watching as Kingsbury’s daring move from college to the pros gets scrutinized.
When Raih was asked about the likelihood of Kingsbury’s Air Raid system succeeding at the professional level, he spoke with the quiet confidence of someone who has rolled the dice and won big.
“We’re not going to predict anything, but the best thing he does is football,” Raih said. “I think it’s going to be good.”